HK5 Japan: Chapter 1 “Take Off & Discount Crowds”
We are about to land in Tokyo and this crazy adventure that I proposed to Clem in the fall of 2018, is now a reality. All 5 of us on this plane and I am truly proud how well behaved these three little kids are, which will be their second longest flight in their lives. The first is yet to come with a almost 20 hour flight scheduled on the way home. I wish Clem and I could say this our longest but sadly a typical 12 hour flight from Paris turned into almost 24 hours back in 2005. The flight I like to call the shitter flight from hell. I digress.
Now back to our story for today. I was going to mention earlier that this trip to Japan and Thailand is a first for the whole family. Clem has been to China before but this is my first to Asia. We are making this trip to celebrate Clem’s 50th and not only broaden our horizons but the kids. Japan is our first leg with stops in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto. We are very lucky to be able to share this experience with our kids. They are getting older and while my parents never really took us to out worldly places, they did take us on adventures, that opened our minds to the bubble called San Ramon. Those visits as child made me realize we need accept and open our minds more and more that there are those with less and living deep in fear of those around them.
Day one in Tokyo was mostly traveling to from the airport and then settling. We are staying in Shibuya area and we actually spent our first official day in Tokyo at Shibuya Station. We fell in love with the videos by Paolo from Tokyo Zebra.....We Love you Maiko!!!!! If you are planning on visiting Tokyo, Paolo’s videos are great introduction to Tokyo and all of Japan. Traveling as a LGBT family to Tokyo was pretty easy, no confused looks or comments. We hit Food Show at Shibuya Station for dinner and we were the only foreign travelers during the hour and half we were there. Food Show in comparison would be equal to Whole Foods on steroids for you Americans. Amazing produce but it’s biggest product are all of the small independent food stalls. They have it all minus prepared foods like Ramens. Plenty of sushi, lots of fried chicken (favorite of the night) and more Katsu options your could imagine. The sweets and desserts section was a complete overload for the kids who were melting fast.
The kids stuck to what they know with this massive amounts of tamago We actually arrived shortly after 7pm and just a heads up, it’s a discount bonanza. Everyone was getting off work and grabbing dinner but when we hit 8pm, the prices dropped even further the place erupted with hands grabbing at everything. It was overwhelming in the moment but it was certainly a fun experience to see how the whole place was such a well oiled machine. Every person working there was extremely friendly and it did take time to getting use to patrons invading your space to indicate you were taking to long to order. But overall people were friendly, an English speaking woman standing behind at a sushi station said they could cut the mammoth tamago roll for us. I smiled at her and said “the kids weren’t giving up the large roll even if I tried, they’re eyes went huge when they saw it”. We explored a little bit more and made our initial visit to the 7-Eleven to stock up on necessities. Before bock at the idea of shopping in a 7-eleven, don’t think run down American stores. 7-elevens are comparable to being in SF with Walgreen’s and CVS on every corner, or Duane Reed in NYC. Paolo likes to point out has a pretty delicious prepared food selection for those on a budget.
Day 2 we hit the ground running and we learned the most important lesson in travel. USE TRANSPORTATION. We opted to walk through Shibuya in the early morning. It was great seeing all of the streets and alleys void of the masses. Everything was closed but it was great find little hidden surprises with empty store entries. At night you tend to not look up and at the business entry points, so it was nice to see them empty and in the light of the day. I posted a photo of one night club’s entry, which is flanked by to steel HR Ginger silence statues.
From Shibuya we headed into Yoyogi park on foot. We experience sprinkles but nothing too bad. The water features were very pretty but sad to see how murky the water has become. Near the site of Olympic gymnastic stadium (which is still being refurbished) we ran into Brazilian festival. I am still kicking myself I didn’t buy one of the linguica’s, sadly they were still setting up. As we moved further into the park we came across some gorgeous trails, one of which lead us to find a snake skin on top of box shrub and the snake who had just shed it 20 feet down on top of the same shrub.
During our walk, we came across a large group of runners who were just leaving there prep area. The group of runners were actually blind and were being guided friends who held onto a bungee while the ran. By our second day we finally figured out what all of the plastic/metal guides that are located on the ground. These guides serve two purposes, one to guide traffic, which I will do a separate post on. The second is to help guide the blind through the cities. So far we have seen these guides both in Tokyo and Nagoya.
After almost 4 hours exploring the park we headed west and up to Harajuku district and took the kids to Takeshita Street. If you are traveling to Tokyo with kids, I strongly recommend you take the kids to this street. Full of Pop Culture and honestly crap you don’t need. The street is entertaining and the cotton candy is the highlight. Eat it fast in the summer, because it will start melting fast in the humidity. We enjoyed Harajuku for the great shopping, so much I went back with Paley for a second trip. We did a little damage but we focused on the grandmas mostly.
Sadly we were so beat at the end of the first full day, we all crashed in the hotel room before heading out to dinner and we accidentally woke up just before 8pm. We ordered room service for the night and sadly had to drag the twins out of bed to eat. Such terrible parents.